May 16, 2007

The Best Value

After becoming old enough to get that monthly government cheque, I am watching with interest how I spend it.

Almost all my life, I’ve been under the influence of a stringent upbringing. It is not that we were poor but that my father was true to his Scottish heritage. When we were little, he thought our tiny hot water heater would save money, so we could not bath and do dishes at the same time. As we grew older, some of his thrifty habits were amusing. When he became very old and both he and mother needed our help with their finances, we realized how well they had taken care of their resources.

Before then, when my first marriage ended I had a house, a piece of land, and almost no income. Getting money from my ex was impossible, and in the location where I lived, it cost more to go to work (car, child care, clothes, etc.) than the wages available at the time. I did clothing alterations, custom machine knitting, and sold paintings. My parents took my grocery list to town and almost always put a few extra things in the cart that my dollars would not cover.

When Bob and I married, he was in debt and my thrifty habits helped solve that problem. Later, as he began a pattern of financial stability and planning, my lifestyle of spending as little as possible continued. There were times over the years that he actually ordered me to go buy clothes or furniture, and “don’t get the cheapest you can find.”

I’ve joked that I am a “kept woman” because I stayed home to care for the children. After they were old enough to take care of themselves, there was no financial need for me to get a job, but as my husband’s income increased, my Scottish heritage stuck.

My first “pension” cheque arrived in March, and I’ve laughed that it is neat to be paid for getting old, but I’m amazed at my response to having this money. I’m spending it.

I went to a high-end ladies wear and bought some badly needed items for my closet. I’ve very narrow, hard to fit feet, but money will buy narrow sandals and shoes that don’t look like the boxes they came in, so I’ve bought some of those. I’m spending my money on accessories for my sewing machine that I’ve always wanted but didn’t feel comfortable buying, on quilting fabric for my “stash” that grows like an organic thing, and on software that works for the many things I do with my computer. I’ve also sponsored a child through Compassion and raised my giving to the Lord.

However, the thrifty side of me is still constantly asking God about this sudden sense of financial independence. I don’t want to violate His will on spending these resources that He has allowed me, nor the resources that my generous husband earns and encourages me to use.

This morning the Lord directed me to Proverbs 23:23. It says, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

In the mind of God, stuff is not important. It is subject to thieves and decay. He always puts eternal things first. Matthew 6:31-33 comes to mind: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Now I look back on all those years of having very little, then continuing to be thrifty because of it, and realize that this heritage is a great blessing. Instead of becoming a person driven by wanting more and more stuff, God gave me the realization very early in my Christian life that stuff does not satisfy the soul; my joy and contentment come from Him. Had I been given a monthly cheque back then, it may have detoured me from years of spending my energy in His Word, seeking truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding.

His value system has not changed, and after a couple months of spending my resources on some “stuff” my heart tells me that my value system is more like His. A flurry of spending has been fun, but I have enough, even more than I need. So what now?

Quilters joke that our stash is never intended to be used in a lifetime; it is simply inspiration for right now. Perhaps that is a metaphor. If I obey Proverbs 23:23, no matter how much truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding I acquire, it will never be enough, but it will inspire and fulfill my life and do far more for me, and for the kingdom of God, than another meter of fabric or another pair of shoes.

1 comment:

Valerie Dykstra said...

I liked reading this.